Iraq parliament grants minorities six council seats

aleq.jpgBAGHDAD (AFP) — Iraqi lawmakers decided on Monday that six local council seats would be reserved for minorities, only half the number proposed by the United Nations, a parliamentary source said.

Out of 150 MPs present in parliament, 106 voted in favour of a resolution to give three seats to Iraq’s Christians and three to other religious minorities, the source told AFP.

Christians will have one seat reserved in Baghdad, the northern province of Nineveh and the southern province of Basra out of the total 440 seats up for grabs in provincial elections scheduled for early next year.

Around 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq at the time of the invasion, but the number has since shrunk by around a third as members fled the country, according to Christian leaders.

One seat will be reserved for Yazidis, a non-Muslim Kurdish community of around 300,000, in Nineveh, which will have a total of 37 seats.

Sabeans, a community of around 60,000, whose religion is a mixture of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Persian traditions, are guaranteed one seat in Baghdad out of a total of 57, the source said.

The Shabak, a 60,000-strong community whose religion is a fusion of Christianity and Islam, have also been granted one seat in Nineveh.

Monday’s vote came after Iraqi Christians complained bitterly that controversial legislation passed in September that will govern the provincial elections excluded guarantees of representation for minority groups.

The law sparked street protests staged by minority groups and strong criticism from the United Nations, which last month proposed 12 seats in all for Christians and other communities.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had also called on the electoral commission to ensure that the rights of minority communities were protected under the law.